In this series we’re going to take you behind the scenes at The Marlowe to find out about our staff. Whether you’re looking to work in the arts (but not sure what’s out there) or you’re just curious about what goes on within our building, we hope you’ll enjoy getting to know our wonderful team.
Our first colleague under the spotlight is Andrew (Andy to us) Dawson, our Creative Projects Officer. Having joined us just over a year ago, Andy’s schedule has been pretty full on.
From working with local schools on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Learning and Performance Network, directing The Massacre At Paris at Canterbury Cathedral and our community production The Garden Of England, to more recently leading a “monster hunt” during Canterbury Children’s Festival, there’s never a dull moment!
What does a typical day for you look like?
The days are very varied and that’s what I enjoy: the variety of the job. One day I might be writing a new plan for a project or a script, speaking to teachers or partner organisations, rehearsing with a company or our creative classes. Inevitably there’ll also be the more mundane tasks such as getting through emails and admin. There’ll be coffee (to help with the admin) and there are bound to be meetings.
What inspired you to work in theatre?
Let me take you back to 1994…Oasis had just released Supersonic and television had four channels: I was a suburban teenager full of righteous indignation at the way the world didn’t work. One day, probably when my Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine tapes were wearing thin, I signed up for a trip to see a young Michael Sheen as Jimmy Porter in Look Back In Anger at The Royal Exchange, Manchester.
What I saw was raw angst resonate in that theatre – vital and defiant. It was a play, forty years on from its opening, that still managed to rip off the smothering pall of establishment respectability, of manners and mannerisms, and scream “I won’t do what you tell me!”.
To me it sounded like Rage Against the Machine, Chuck-D or punk rock but looking and sounding a bit more like me and still grappling for a purpose. It was still shocking, still uncertain, a blow to the stomach…and I was hooked.
I’d slightly distrusted theatre at school. It was something you did for a pat on the head – being told to walk on stage, stand in the right place and say your lines nicely so your parents could clap. I now had a very different model. I auditioned for the school plays and got the lead. I kept doing plays, started directing my own and discovered Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter: ruining my parents’ hopes for me of a steady, respectable career.
So how did you get to where you are today?
It’s a long and winding road…I was an actor, teacher and freelance director. I won’t regale you with too many stories of selling buttons, baking bread and all the other jobs I did between acting gigs!
I was always in search of a better sort of theatre that was is in genuine conversation with a community: listening, challenging and debating; championing aspirations and dreams; celebrating its culture and opening its embrace.
Theatre is a vitally communal experience – it must be about people and how we relate to each other. It is live, in the flesh, unmediated by technology or governed by authority. I wanted to find space to make theatre that was interested in truth as well as beauty and doesn’t reduce art, artist, audience to mere commodity. The Marlowe was a new theatre – or at least a new incarnation of a theatre – with a new space in The Marlowe Studio. I strive to make theatre like that here.
What is the best part of your job?
Seeing the work come together: the actors, participants and audiences delight in the experience.
What would you say has been your proudest moment since working at The Marlowe?
Our community production The Garden Of England in April this year saw a gargantuan task realised. It was great to see our professionals, participants, partners and volunteers working together to create an eloquent conversation on important ideas that involved so many in our community, from the very young to the very young at heart. Seeing that come together was a moment of tremendous pride, relief and also excitement at the possibilities this suggested for the future of The Marlowe.
Seeing the performances grow and develop within that week was particularly gratifying. It was engaged with serious issues that affect us all yet simultaneously managed to be fun and playful.
Favourite production you’ve seen at The Marlowe?
The Paper Birds Theatre Company’s Blind (back this Autumn) moved me to tears but Soho Theatre and nabokov’s Blink was breathtakingly beautiful. Both of these have been in our Studio.
And the production you’re most looking forward to?
That’s a tough one. There are some great things coming up such as Matthew Bourne’s Lord Of The Flies and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Henry IV Parts One and Two (two of Shakespeare’s finest and most underrated plays).
It’s The Marlowe Studio that really excites me as it’s where the new, bold writers, performers and artists get to develop their work and share it with an audience. Our new season will be announced soon…
Any advice for someone looking to get into theatre and education work?
Always strive to do the work that excites you but remember as far as everyone else is concerned, it’s not about you and that’s how it should be.
Click here to learn more about our writing and acting workshops, and our work with schools. The Marlowe Teachers & Schools Programme is supported by The Samuel Feldman NEC Fund.